Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Assimilate this!"

I can't believe that some "Star Trek" fans are still complaining loudly about the Klingon, Worf, seemingly giving up his post as an ambassador (as shown in the final television episode of "Deep Space Nine") to return to Starfleet (in the last, rather unpopular, ST feature film, "Nemesis").

On the ST bulletin boards I visit they'll say, "I wish he hadn't come back as Worf, to be honest. What a shame and a waste. Not to mention a slap in the face to DS9 continuity and fans."

Well, some fans would have said that actor Michael Dorn abstaining from an appearance in "Nemesis" would have been "a slap in the face" to fans.

The choice for Worf to be in Starfleet uniform, rather than ambassadorial robes, at the Riker/Troi wedding scene in "Nemesis" was actually Dorn's. When asked by screenwriter, John Logan, he supposedly said, "I want to be in my spacesuit like everyone else."

The "Next Generation" feature films aren't made just for fans of TV's DS9 (which had tiny ratings compared to TNG's TV run). For many members of the cinema-going general public, the last time they'd seen Worf (in the movie "Insurrection"), he was a Starfleet officer. You can't saddle every guest appearance at a wedding with a backstory and still progress the action. ("Oh here's Mr Worf. Why did you give up your ambassadorial post after only a few years in the job? Did Chancellor Martok regret asking you to be an ambassador?" "Wesley! You're no longer travelling the universe with your superpowered friend, the Traveller? Welcome back to Starfleet." "Guinan! We do miss you so much after the crash of the Enterprise-D's saucer. Are you still tending bars somewhere, or are you in retirement?" Ick.)

At a wedding, characters such as Worf, Wesley and Guinan are just going to be there. (Just check out the Wesley lines in the bonus footage of the two-disk DVD. They sound extraneous and don't progress the action in any way.) I think back to family weddings I've been to: I don't necessarily know who all those people are, and I usually go home having only spent a few minutes with some of them, still no wiser about how they spend their lives. And I may not see them again until the next wedding or funeral.

Movies that explain everything leave people with nothing to discuss, except whether they liked it or not. Fans have been discussing the untold dangling plod threads from "Nemesis" ever since it came out. Nothing wrong with that. We never found out everything that had been happening for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc between the original series of "Star Trek" and "The Motion Picture" (TMP) - or between TMP and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" - either. That's what the licensed tie-in novels are for!

Incidentally, Worf's career changes (from Klingon ambassador in DS9's "What You Leave Behind" finale to Starfleet officer in "Nemesis") are tracked in an excellent nine-part novel series, "A Time...". The four-part saga "The Lost Years" did similar duty for post-TOS, and novels like "Ex Machina" and the new "Crucible" trilogy cover the post-TMP time period.

I'm anxiously awaiting a huge new book, "Voyages of Imagination" by Jeff Ayers, due any day now, which tracks every licensed ST novel and short story ever written. It will be a very cool thing to have: b/w cover art of every book, brief plot summaries, interviews with authors and editors, and the latest version of the ST novel timeline. Over 800 pages. (I'm probably buying two copies: one to keep in mint condition and one to scrawl in the margins!)


Jean Prouvaire said...

IIRC Logan did have a line explaining Worf's appearance in the uniform. His career as an ambassador "didn't take" (or something like that). But, as you say, it would have been an extraneous bit of exposition for a movie aimed at a mass market.

Balancing the needs of the public with the needs of the fen is always going to be a tricky endeavour for franchises with ardent followers ... as no doubt Star Trek XI will once again demonstrate.

Therin of Andor said...

Yep. IIRC, he tells them that ambassadorial duties didn't agree with him. The novelists have plenty of fun explaining it all in "A Time..." and "Articles of the Federation" - and they give Wesley a different path than the one suggested by the DVD bonus scenes and the "Nemesis" novelization.

De said...

The film had much bigger problems than failing to fill in character biographies of B- and C-level characters.

Therin of Andor said...

Agreed! My favourite ST character ever, Data, died in "Nemesis" and I felt hardly any emotional response. Considering that Spock's death in thee eerily-similarly paced ST II chocked up people who barely cared about Spock means that Stuart baird definitely failed as director of "Nemesis".

And yet many fans seem to think that giving explanations for Worf, Wesley and Guinan being present would magically "fix" the film. One-liners were scripted (and Wesley's scene was even filmed), but Baird deemed them unnecessary to the flow of the action. But people still blame John Logan for the omissions.

I rather liked that fans can leave a ST film with some guessing about what's been happening. And, in interviews, that's what Logan has said he was aiming for. A few tantalizing story hooks that aren't answered. You don't always know every detail of peoples' lives at this type of reunion (ie. at weddings - and, indeed, in sequel movies).

A similar set of non explanations were set up in ST II. Kirk had stepped away from his admiralty job in TMP, yet now he was back at Starfleet HQ in ST II. Spock was suddenly a captain, something he said canonically he didn't aspire to, and suddenly a female protege had turned up. When in his career had he met Saavik? When had Kirk met Carol and fathered her child? What had led Chekov and Kyle to signing aboard Reliant, and yet Sulu and Uhura were still on the Enterprise? Or was Uhura working at Starfleet HQ with Kirk? She seems to act as his personal assistant, even holding his birthday gift book for him. Where was Chapel? Where was Rand? When had Chekov met Khan during "Space Seed"? And so on.

I recall have many lively debates with my friends after watching ST II (in a packed old-fashioned, large theatre) for a preview, and then at a huge gala premiere night, with most of the audience in Starfleet uniform, wildly applauding everyone's entrances.

Sadly, I also saw "Nemesis" on its opening night: no queue for tickets, an almost-empty multiplex cinema, with a work colleague who shared my interest in SF movies. Sigh. (We did try to brainstorm the answers to Logan's unanswered questions, but it was a fairly lonely debate.)